IoT: A Better Healthcare Identification Strategy

By Robert Kowalik, Practice Director Healthcare at Bluvision, part of HID Global
Twitter: @HIDGlobal
At HIMSS19: Visit Bluvision/HID Global in Booth #4873 in Orlando, FL

Hospitals face countless logistics, compliance, and safety hurdles every day. Expensive equipment goes missing or maintenance schedules delayed in searching for assets. Patients and visitors get lost trying to navigate a hospital’s corridors. Security personnel scramble to locate a clinical staff member who triggered a duress alert. Small instances that slip through the cracks, like a nurse not washing his or her hands before administering treatment, can have lasting consequences for patient safety and hospital management.

Solutions exist for these problems, but they often operate independently from one another. Relying on dozens or more of applications designed to solve one problem at a time is—at best—inefficient, labor intensive, and costly. Hospitals miss out on collecting valuable, potentially life-saving data that is lost in the complex management of IT solutions.

While each healthcare organization has its unique challenges, hospitals are increasingly turning to Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that deliver location services to streamline everything from asset visibility, patient flow, hygiene compliance, to security systems onto an easy-to-manage, low-cost IoT platform.

A complete IoT ecosystem doesn’t just allow for efficient management and deployment of apps, it also enables the aggregation and analysis of large amounts of data to help make decisions and gain insights based on the real-time location solution. With IoT solutions, hospitals can locate and manage everything.

Location-based data is richer than just knowing the physical location of an object or person. The exact temperature of medications or vaccines can be monitored while in storage, while being transported to a patient, and before being administered – all part of the healthcare chain of custody.

Staff can quickly locate equipment and know its maintenance status. This information creates a data trail to identify opportunities for reducing spoilage and increasing operational efficiency.

Many uses for increasing hospital efficiency and the patient experience are already identified for IoT location services, but the industry is currently only at the tip of the iceberg. More solutions are rapidly being designed and implemented as hospitals are increasingly seeing the value of this data and these solutions.

The healthcare industry is adopting IoT solutions at a faster rate on average than across all other industries combined. Hospitals that ignore this powerful technology stand to fall behind in terms of efficiency and the level of patient care they provide.

Already, hospitals are finding ways to leverage location-based data in game-changing ways.

Staying compliant with hygiene standards is a laborious task. Some hospitals rely on the frighteningly antiquated practice of direct observation to monitor their staff’s hygiene compliance. This labor-intensive option is unrealistic for a healthcare setting of any size. Relying on self-reported hygiene information introduces a whole other set of problems.

With IoT enabled solutions, hospitals can automate hygiene monitoring for compliance and patient safety. Location awareness lets hospitals create a record of when staff are at a soap or sanitizer dispenser, how much was dispensed, and how long the staff member was at the hygiene station.

In an age where operational demands have outgrown manual processes, hospitals need to adopt new technologies to guarantee they provide the best patient experience and remain competitive in a changing world.

IoT solutions make it possible that hospitals can measure their level of actual service time when patients are engaged in the care flow. Hospitals can monitor patient wait times in the waiting room, exam room, pharmacy, or any other department. Following a patient’s stay from intake to discharge reveals where delays in care occur and help staff comply with mandated turnover rates. Monitoring patients using disparate applications can obscure insights about wait times or other lapses in care that an IoT ecosystem reveals.

Location service solutions also offer improvements in visitor experiences. Confusedly wandering the corridors of a hospital can become a thing of the past with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) powered wayfinding systems deployed over an IoT stack. Visitors and patients can use their phones to receive turn-by-turn navigation inside hospitals, across medical campuses, and even in parking lots. Accurate indoor GPS wayfinding, anchored by BLE technology, benefits patients and visitors with easy-to-follow directions and helps hospitals decrease missed or late appointments due to lost patients.

Healthcare IoT is delivering location awareness to provide better visibility into everything, including security. Patient identities can be carried through the care process more efficiently with location-aware apps. Room entry technology can display a doctor’s credentials when they enter a room, establishing trust between patients and their care providers.

For more threatening security situations, IoT location services monitor staff location in real-time, so security personnel can respond with speed and precision to any instances of duress.

Staff, patient, and equipment locations can be monitored using Bluetooth beacons that bring an array of additional benefits to hospitals. Doctors can trade in their numerous ID badges for accessing secure locations or information for one trusted ID badge. Patients of any age who might wander can be easily located and cared for when given an ID badge with a beacon.

Hospitals that embrace the power of a BLE-powered IoT stack introduce trusted, intelligent improvements to their settings. Healthcare managers owe it to their staff and patients to get the best out of the healthcare IoT.

Future is here and affordable. Proprietary point solutions of the past are going to be disrupted with wide location services platforms that are efficient and scalable and cost effective to implement and administrate. Time to look at location services as an enterprise strategy is before us and the benefits significant.